Flowers, flowers, flowers everywhere.
The 2019 Philadelphia Flower Show opened to the public Saturday and lived up to this year’s theme, “Flower Power," with a ’60s vibe of peace, love, and happiness. Exhibits with thousands of colorful plants and arrangements were carefully displayed to convey emotions that transcend language and culture.
Shortly after the doors opened, thousands of visitors packed into the Convention Center for the annual precursor to spring. They were greeted at the entrance garden by sculptures of towering vines, nearly 8,000 flowers, and a meadow suspended 25 feet up that was inspired by Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein and the Pop Art culture.
A floral re-creation of Woodstock, including a “Groovy Garden” of pressed flowers, a muddy pit, a wedding scene from the Summer of Love, and a view from the Woodstock performance stage, was a popular attraction. Visitors waited patiently to pose for photographs in front of colorful LOVE and peace signs.
“This is our generation,” said Jill Rosenfeld, of Wayne, who was attending the show for the fourth time with her cousin Ronnie Rubin, and friend Anne Kayser, both of New York. “It’s exciting for us.”
Added Kayser: “If they were playing Motown it would be perfect.” Almost on cue, Diana Ross and the Supremes’ 1967 hit “Reflections” piped through the Convention Center. Throughout the day, music from the ’60s played.
The Woodstock exhibit also captured the interest of a generation not yet born when thousands converged on the music festival held on a dairy farm in the Catskill Mountains in August 1969. Haley McCarthy and Clint Junco, both 24, of Albany, N.Y., drove four hours to attend the Flower Show and stopped at the Woodstock display.
“It’s cool to see it come full circle," said McCarthy, who works in finance. The couple wore silk floral crowns that they made at the show. Visitors can learn to arrange flowers in themed classes that include “Mood Ring,” ''Lava Lamp," and “Sit-In.”
As the crowd inside the Convention Center swelled, visitors slowly moved shoulder-to-shoulder in some areas but tried to keep a sense of humor. “Now I know what cattle feel like,” quipped one man.
Michelle Stratton, of Ansonia, Conn., makes the trip to Philadelphia every year. She and a friend set aside two days for the show to make sure they have time to see everything and purchase flowers and supplies to take home.
“The first day is display,” explained Stratton. “The second day is shopping.”
A Saturday forecast that called for a possible snowstorm that didn’t materialize may have helped boost attendance, said Kevin Feeley, a spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, which launched what is now the largest and oldest flower show in the country in 1829. It has been a magnet in recent years for inclement weather, including snow that fell during Friday night’s opening gala. Last year, a nor’easter dumped heavy, wet snow on opening night.
“It always helps when inclement weather is forecast and doesn’t happen,” said Feeley. “I think it drives people to get to the Flower Show.”
A coastal storm is expected to bring more snow to the area Sunday into Monday, followed by a week of January cold, underscoring the need for the taste of spring the Flower Show provides the winter-weary.
Total attendance figures will not be available until after the show ends next Sunday. Annual attendance typically averages about 250,000 visitors. The show has a regional economic impact of about $65 million.
Also at the show this year, top floral designers from 23 nations are competing in the Interflora World Cup, the floral industry’s most prestigious design competition. It marks the first time that the World Cup has been held in the United States since 1985, and the first ever for the Philadelphia Flower Show.
The national champions of their countries, the competitors created a hand-tied bouquet that explores the interplay of color and light, designed a table-for-two setting that evokes a feeling of love through flowers, and complete other challenges.
Landscaper Tom Morris, of Crum Lynne, Delaware County, used the Alzheimer’s Association Walk to End Alzheimer’s “Promise Garden” for an exhibit theme, and included a sculptured memory tree designed to represent the brain. The association’s Delaware Valley Chapter donated colored fabric flowers on which visitors were encouraged to write messages of hope or the names of loved ones who died from the disease.
The marker in front of the exhibit reads in part: “We ‘promise’ to continue the fight against it and rather than let it take memories and loved ones from us, we are adding memories to the tree with colorful flowers.”
Walking through the garden reminded Nancy Wolsley, of Buffalo, of her mother, Phyllis, who died from Alzheimer’s in 2002. She said she inherited her mother’s love for gardening.
“It’s very cathartic,” said Wolsley, 69. “It’s very relaxing.”
Other exhibits at the show centered on themes of community, healing, peace, and hope. There is also a home gardening hub with educational exhibits, author talks, and guided “potting parties” for visitors to plant flowers and greens to take home.
The Flower Show also holds hundreds of contests for gardeners and growers who compete for ribbons from the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society. The categories are divided by plant species and skill level, and plants are judged on their health, distinctiveness, quality, rarity, and difficulty to grow.
The show will be at the Convention Center through March 10. Tickets are on sale at the Flower Show’s website, theflowershow.com.